Thursday, October 4, 2012

Endurance Part Two: Living on the Ice

I had to go back and read Part Two a second time because I could tell I was still having trouble associating the characters.  I keep focusing on Shackleton and processing what the other characters are doing and what they do to contribute to the story, but I am having trouble remembering who is who. 

In going back a second time, I was able to see more of the dynamic that keeps them going.  The characteristics that Shackleton chose them for are still evident – need to adventure, light-heartedness, etc.  I think that most importantly, they were still optimistic.  When the ship was abandoned, the men went on with regular business without needing authoritative guidance.  They knew their task; they were unaffected by their circumstances and set their goals on travelling 346 miles northwest.  One might think that personal affects and sentimental belongings would have been the stable basis of optimism and cheer; however, even after having to leave behind their unessential baggage, their morale did not waver.  Not even having to kill the pups and their one cat discouraged them.  Had I been in their shoes, I probably would have lost the will to forge ahead. 

Camp was a new and challenging environment.  The days of the Ritz were over, but again, the men adapted and made the best of it through fun, comradery, and enthusiasm.  Food was another story.  As we discussed in class and in the text, our bodies can hit a certain threshold of hunger where all we can think about is food.  This is what happened to the men.  To alleviate this problem they went out and fervently hunted seals (more brutal ways of taking them out than before) and returned to the Endurance to get whatever supplies they could.  This helped keep the men sustained.

Despite all of the opportunities for the crew to have turned to mutiny or dissonance, they continued to get along quite well.  There were, of course, some hiccups.  Orde-Lee became obsessed with the food supply – perhaps his incentive was food as a mechanism of survival.  McNeish snapped during the journey from Ocean Camp.  He just stopped and refused to go further even though his striking away from the group would result in his untimely death.  Others, like Hurley, had little quirks and such that made the environment a little more tense.  To counteract these individuals, Shackleton took precautions such as separating certain men or creating circumstances, however slight, that would improve their morale.  Shackleton was strategic about this and his actions mirrored his extreme worries over the crew losing sight of their goals and sense of hope.

Motivation is seen throughout the whole section of the book.  Shackleton who just forges forward relentlessly.  His crew, seeing his exterior presentation, also drove forward.  It became a matter of the little things that made the days go by and the experience less traumatic.    Even without the Endurance, the crew seemed to be capable of connecting to reality.  The Endurance had been an anchor, but they were able to take the lifestyle and attitudes on the ship with them onto the floes.  I really don’t know if I can put my finger on how they managed to stay motivated.  I think it’s something very complicated and beyond the general dispositions of the crew and Shackleton.

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